The Real Risks of Marathon Running

Unfortunately, three people died recently in the Detroit Marathon. The news media has made a very big deal of this. Are marathons "death races?" It is very risky to run a marathon? Let's look at the facts and stay away from the sensational news headlines.
The deaths are certainly very sad, but they must be taken in context. While this is tragic it is not a reason to avoid marathons. Several studies have been done on the risks of marathon running and the evidence is that running a marathon has a very low risk of death. In fact, the British Medical Journal, (BMJ) published an article in 2007 that looked at 750 marathon days. It accounted for over 3 million runners and over 14 million hours of running. In that very large sample there were 26 deaths. That is equal to an overall risk of 0.8 deaths per 100,000 runners, or 2 deaths per million hours of vigorous exercise. The authors of the study went one step further. They actually looked at the motor vehicle deaths that were avoided due to the roads being closed on race day. What they found was that 46 deaths, statistically speaking, were avoided due to the closed roads.
Amazingly, we drive everyday and think nothing of it. Many of us talk on the phone, drink coffee, play with the radio and check email all while driving. This is much more deadly than any marathon...ever. The media does not really report car accidents the same way as they do deaths in a marathon. Car accidents are so common that fail to register as "news."
Now for the positive side, let's look at all the good that comes from running marathons and training for them. The number one cause of death in this country is heart disease followed by cancer and stroke. All of these top 3 killers can be avoided, to some extent, by regular aerobic exercise and maintenance of a healthy weight. Though it is impossible to say how many lives a marathon saves, it is easy to see that it contributes to the overall health of thousands. To say nothing of the joy, friendship, sense of accomplishment and good old fashioned fun these races add to your life.
If you have never run a marathon and you want to, educate yourself. Learn how to train and how to keep yourself properly hydrated. Make sure you ask your doctor if you are healthy enough to take on that kind of challenge. Don't let fear get in your way and don't believe everything you read in the headlines.

Committed to your health,

Dr. Craig Conti
Sarasota Foot Care Center

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